With the major national all-star games in the book, RecruitingNation has released its final ESPN 300 player rankings for the Class of 2014. The new rankings feature quite a few players who improved their stocks after performances against some of the best talent in the country. Here are seven bold predictions for what we'll see from players who moved up the charts.
A&M's class will make biggest instant impact
More people need to be talking about the job Kevin Sumlin has done with his 2014 recruiting class. Even though the Aggies have the No. 2 class in the nation, most of the focus has been on Alabama, Tennessee, LSU and Florida State. But no class will make as big of an impact this fall as the group heading to College Station. With the new rankings, the Aggies now have two top-10 players -- defensive end Myles Garrett (Arlington, Texas/Martin) at No. 4 and athlete Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Edna Karr) at No. 7 -- and both will be breakout stars as true freshmen. But they won't be the only ones. This class is littered with playmakers who will make their marks on the SEC next season. ESPN 300 prospects like defensive back Nick Harvey (Richmond, Texas/Travis), linebacker Hoza Scott (La Porte, Texas/La Porte), defensive tackle DeShawn Washington (Nederland, Texas/Nederland) and defensive end Qualen Cunningham (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) should all contribute quickly to a defense that needs all the help it can get.
Isaiah McKenzie will be a game-changer
Four-star athlete Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) has faced a number of challenges this year, the latest being a loaded defense at the Under Armour All-America Game. Next season, look for McKenzie to pass every test the same way he did en route to MVP honors at the Under Armour game. McKenzie, who moves into the ESPN 300 at No. 286, fell behind early academically but has continued to push hard in the classroom and is now on track to qualify. He's working with Notre Dame to see if he can qualify with its standards, and Oregon and Florida have entered the picture. No matter where he ends up, it's the commitment to get things done both on and off the field that will allow McKenzie to be a special player on the next level.
A star TE will emerge for Trojans
For all the offensive weapons the Trojans have had over the years, one position that has gone somewhat overlooked has been tight end. The Trojans always seem to have a good player at the position, and with star Xavier Grimble leaving early for the NFL, there is an opportunity for somebody from the 2014 class to be next in line. That's where Bryce Dixon, who soared almost 40 spots in the new ESPN 300 to No. 89, comes in. Dixon, who committed to the Trojans at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, will be a productive receiving target early on for USC and has the big-play ability Steve Sarkisian wants in his offense. Dixon will need to develop his run blocking, but his speed and hands should make him an early-impact guy for USC.
Brown will be Alabama's next star
When you have the No. 1 class in the country and arguably the best offensive line class in the modern era of recruiting, it's tough to single out one player in the group. But five-star cornerback Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) is unlike any other player in this year's class. Brown, who moved up to No. 8 in the new ESPN 300, is such a special person both on and off the field, I fully anticipate him to be the next star in Tuscaloosa. Playing for Nick Saban, a coach with a long tradition of producing tremendous defensive backs, Brown will learn from the best in the business. He'll take those lessons and translate them to the field, where his athleticism, knowledge of the game and swagger will make him the next star corner in the SEC. He'll also be able to handle all of the attention that comes with being that good. Some players can't handle the attention that comes with being great at Alabama, but Brown will have no problem with the spotlight.
Big 12 QBs will know Jordan Brailford
Big 12 coaches will tell you Tulsa, Okla., is one of the Midwest's top spots for talent every year, but it's remained under the radar on the national scale. That's one reason why longtime Oklahoma State defensive end commit Jordan Brailford wasn't talked about as one of the country's best defensive ends. That changed when Brailford was unblockable at the Semper Fidelis All-America Bowl. His performance was rewarded with a move up to No. 300 in the ESPN 300. Oklahoma State fans and other Big 12 coaches who offered him will tell you it's no surprise Brailford performed as well as he did, and he should do big things for Cowboys defensive coordinator Glen Spencer.
Miami WR commit will be a real catch
Four-star receiver Braxton Berrios (Raleigh, N.C./Leesville Road) knows he's not going to pass the eyeball test when compared to some of the other receivers in the 2014 class. But by the time he's done in Coral Gables, Fla., the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Berrios will be known for having some of the best hands in college football. Berrios can snatch the ball out of the air and secure it on the move with little wasted motion. Whoever his quarterback is at Miami will soon learn that Berrios will be his security blanket. Need somebody not afraid to go over the middle on a third-and-6 play? Berrios is your man. By the time he's done, ACC fans will be comparing his game to Wes Welker's.
Brandon Harris will win big at LSU
There's no doubt LSU-bound quarterback Brandon Harris has the it factor. There's been a lot of talk among LSU fans about whether or not Harris -- who moved up 21 spots to No. 37 in the new rankings -- will be able to start as a true freshman. That's a tough challenge for any true freshman to handle in the SEC, especially for a quarterback. But don't count Harris out. As the rise in the rankings proves, he's more than physically able to do good things on the football field. But it's what he showed off the field at Under Armour that really impressed. He showed tremendous leadership abilities and spent extra time working with his receivers going over plays. He also oozes charisma. Again, it's tough to imagine anybody stepping on the field as a true freshman and starting in the SEC, but if anybody can do it, it's Harris. And even if it takes a year or two, remember this -- he will win a lot of games wearing purple and gold.